Portland has so many record labels, but not really a ton of compilations. One could assume in a small city like ours, it’s tricky to curate an album that frames any part of the local music scene without making tough, potentially alienating decisions. Most tackle this problem by including only bands “signed” to their label, but the picture this paints can be artificial and product-oriented, like trying to draw a sunset using only shades of name-brand lipstick. (Comps that rally around mainstream tastes have their own set of problems.) So we were impressed with the idea behind the first compilation by Cut the Shit Records, a nascent imprint of producer and Rattlesnakes drummer Mike Cunnane, which captures Portland underground sounds in a smart, totally authentic way. Basically, 10 bands were invited to an all-day party at Cunnane’s studio, laying down single tracks and guesting as needed on each others’. As a result, the record works as a snapshot of a big chunk of the city’s punk scene, reflecting the friendships and collaborations that hold it together. Portland DIY: Cut the Shit Vol. 1 leads off with Foam Castles, whose new, stripped-down configuration sounds wedged between the pop charismatics of Robyn Hitchcock and Alex Chilton. Awaas mark their first recording as an electro-dronewave foursome with “Breed Tiny Monsters,” a revamped Jim Morrison poem they hammer into a thuddy, dubby anthem for the endtimes. Cuss uncorks a muscular one in “Baby Face” — they’re back at full strength after a brief hiatus — and Leaves Leaves do their disheveled bar-rock thing on “Sleepy Whizzard.” Metal Feathers’ “Touch Me Back” is a snarling downer with a riff good enough to stand out on their last record, Handful of Fog. Mouth Washington roar with barreling grunge-filth, and Gimme Goldar brings noise-pain on “Errbodys a Putty,” capping it with an overlong gang-vocal outro. Plus more, in new/underheard acts like Video Nasties, Duey Meadows, and Fur. Sure, it’s no less an arbitrary group than what’s on your own favorite Portland comp, but at least we know these people have met each other. Watch for another in the fall, and visit cuttheshit.bandcamp.com for a free download.
Also in comp land, the Listen Up! Music program, an initiative by Creative Trails for artists with intellectual disabilities, have assembled their own first collection of originals. Listen Up Album is 20 beautiful, earnest pop songs, performed by ensembles like Dysfunctional Mayhem, the Sabotaging Cars, and the Slipstreeming Mondays. The songs here are fleshed out with the help of full-time musicians like Sara Hallie Richardson, Eric Schwan, and Dominic Lavoie (we particularly dig J-Man’s “My Life,” a no-holds-barred rap track), and the project as a whole is an awesome reminder of the real reasons we express ourselves musically. On sale at local record stores, the Art Department, and at creativetrails.org.